Intelligence Reports Offer Grim Outlook on Afghanistan War

Intelligence Reports Offer Grim Outlook on Afghanistan War

President Obama plans to release a year-end review of his administration’s strategy in Afghanistan that will show movement toward withdrawal, but two upcoming intelligence reports show a darker perspective on the draining, nine-year war, saying it is unlikely to end without cooperation from Pakistan.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the results of the Pentagon review “will not surprise” anyone following the war and “will show that our transition can and should begin … in July 2011.” Obama has previously pledged to begin a drawdown of the 100,000 US forces currently in Afghanistan by that time. Gibbs said there is “no doubt” that the US strategy has improved since last December.

But the National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) reports contradict the White House review in many respects. Unless Pakistani forces help to find Taliban militants seeking save haven on their border, the NIE reports said, the war cannot be won.

As The New York Times reports, insurgents plant bombs and fight US troops in Afghanistan and then return to Pakistan to regroup. Despite sending Pakistan $2 billion in aid each year, Pakistani officials say they are focused on fighting militants who attack their own people.

While the NIE reports show that there has been progress in “inkspots” in Afghanistan cities with a strong enough US or North Atlantic Treaty Operation (NATO) presence to maintain safety, much of the rest of the country is under Taliban control or vulnerable to Taliban attacks.

Obama sent an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan last year to increase the war effort in targeting insurgency and helping train Afghan Security Forces. At the time, he said his strategy aimed to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”

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According to The Associated Press, former war adviser and CIA official Bruce Riedel said that progress on that front may help in ending the war despite Pakistan’s current priorities. “If the US continues to strengthen the Afghan state and army, that may force Pakistan to reconsider its support for the Taliban,” said Riedel.

Obama’s review states that 13 local Afghan-run police sites are currently operational and employ more than 2,100 recruits, while the headquarters of the US international force in Afghanistan said that 70 percent of insurgent attacks around the country were “ineffective.” Civilian casualties were down by 66 percent.

But the NIE reports are also highly critical of President Hamid Karzai, stating doubt over whether a less corrupt government can be created and sustained in Afghanistan before a new Taliban offensive arises, which is expected to happen in the spring of next year. The reports follow Karzai’s statement that NATO should transfer full responsibility for his country’s affairs to Afghan forces by 2014.

“The bigger corruption is the corruption of the international community in Afghanistan and this can be addressed only through two ways,” Karzai said during a television address. “First, through their cordial, sincere, and true cooperation and by allowing Afghans to manage their own affairs, so that they assume full responsibility of their country and their activities.”

The Global Post also recently reported that the majority of Afghans do not support the US military. Public opinion polls show that a mere six percent of respondents hold a “very favorable” view of American troops. At 55 percent, more than half of respondents want the US forces out of their country, “and the sooner the better.”

The White House has denied the findings of the NIE reports, characterizing them as dated because they had only reviewed progress through September. The New York Times quoted a senior defense official as saying, “They are not on the ground living it day in and day out like our forces are, so they don’t have the proximity and perspective.”